Hollins in the Black Hills

William G. Hollins saw Civil War service in the First Nebraska Infantry, resigning his commission on April 26, 1862. In 1870 he served as city marshal of Omaha. A well-known anecdote of Hollins during his days as marshal involved his discovery of one of his patrolmen asleep under s stairway on Twelfth Street in Omaha. The marshal quietly removed the policeman’s star, belt, baton, and hat. The policeman could not explain his missing equipment and was dismissed.

Several years later Hollins participated in the Black Hills gold rush. The Omaha Daily Bee, on January 31, 1876, identified Hollins as “the big man of the Hills” and on February 2, published extracts from a letter Hollins had written to S. H. Rice of Omaha on conditions in the Black Hills:

“November 25th [1875] I left Fort Laramie, in company with nine others, with riding animals and pack animals. We arrived in Flora valley, on the western slope, on the 10th day of December. . . . I am now camped about three miles from the foot of Harney’s Peak. Owing to the cold weather north, we were unable to give a fair prospect to late discoveries. Crazy Horse’s band of Minneconjou Sioux are camped on Powder River. We discovered several bands of warriors from his camp. Fearing they had no lucid moments as long as white men’s hair was a trophy of their prowess, we concluded our numbers would not justify us in remaining in that country and taking the chances. . . .

“The miners on Castle and Spring creeks are taking out gold; the water does not freeze in their sluices. During the day, however, they cannot work to an advantage exceeding six hours a day. I examined a drift in a bar on Spring creek which I consider the only prospect made in the entire hills. The drift was sixty feet deep; they crossed three pay-streaks in the drift, the widest being sixteen feet. The pay is in slate bedrock, and it will average an ounce to the hand per day. When we consider the vast gold deposits of these Hills with a soil and climate peculiarly adapted to the wants of an American, the future wealth, greatness and population cannot be over-estimated.

“Hills City is in a basin surrounded by high mountains, covered by tall pines; it is the most desirable location in the Hills that I have seen; centrally located, 18 miles to the north of Custer Park; 15 miles east of the discovery on Castle Creek; 15 miles from Rapid or Camp Crook; six miles from Jenney’s discovery on Spring Creek, and on the main thoroughfare to the recent discoveries north. It is in the heart of the mining camps and is the best point for merchants and mill-men to furnish supplies from.”

Martha Allis Hollins, Hollins’s wife, made the oldest surviving quilt known to have been created in Nebraska. Martha was born in Bellevue in 1840 to Samuel and Emeline Palmer Allis, missionaries to the Pawnee tribe. Martha completed the quilt for her 1861 wedding to Hollins in Omaha. Anticipating her marriage, Martha signed the quilt “M. A. Hollins 1860” under the eagle motif.

The quilt features a typical, period wedding design with the addition of a federal eagle, possibly to show Martha’s Union sympathies. The fabrics may have been purchased in Nebraska Territory or by Martha’s father during an 1857 trip back east.

Wreath of Roses, 1860, appliqué, cotton, by Martha Allis Hollins in Nebraska Territory. 

NSHS 7874-1

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.